ASA slams Virgin over broadband ads

Upholds BT complaint that advertised speeds do not take connection throttling into account
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The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint from telecoms firm BT claiming that ads for rival provider Virgin gave a misleading impression of download speeds available to customers, the BBC reports.

Virgin’s ‘Hate to Wait?’ campaign boasted download times for music and TV shows that did not take into account Virgin’s rigorous traffic shaping policies.

The ASA has ruled that Virgin must make it clear that connection speeds will vary in all future ad campaigns.

Whilst Virgin Media’s cable broadband is acknowledged as offering one of the most stable, and often fastest, internet connections available, it is also true that the firm has significantly increased the restrictions it puts on customers relating regarding the amount of information they can download without being penalised.

Virgin’s service is unlimited, in that there is no maximum cap to the amount of data users can download. However, heavy ‘throttling’ of internet connections means that many users face significant periods where their connection speed is deliberately reduced.

The ISP recently increased the number of hours per day it considers to be ‘peak’, meaning that if users download what is considered to be an ‘excessive’ amount of information between 10am and 9pm they will see their connections drop in speed by up to 75 per cent.

For instance, a 2MB or 4MB user who downloads just 1GB between 4pm and 9pm or 2GB between 10am and 3pm will see their speed reduced to 1MB. The restriction stays in place for five hours after activation.

Whilst these limits are unlikely to be triggered by normal web browsing, many consumers have complained that the restrictions are too severe. Gamers, for instance, who might want to download demos, trailers or movies from Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network may find that doing so before 9pm severely limits their evening’s online play – one demo or film is likely to take them way over Virgin’s limit.

"Our traffic management policy helps ensure the majority of customers receive the quality of service they expect from our fibre-optic broadband product by managing demand from the heaviest users at certain times of the day," a Virgin Media spokesperson stated.

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